With the approach of winter and the holidays, the Mettowee Valley Ecumenical Food Pantry is seeing a surge in demand for its services.
“The demand has been increasing, no doubt about it,” said JoAnn Holland, a volunteer at the pantry. “We’re helping 30 or 40 more families than this time last year.”
The 15-year food pantry veteran said the same families aren’t coming in each month, but approximately 150 families use the food pantry to stretch their monthly food budgets.
Run out of the basement of St. Mary’s Church on Bulkley Avenue by the Granville Area Ecumenical Council, the pantry has seen a steady increase in usage since the economic downturn.
“They just can’t stretch it as far and food stamps don’t go as far as they used to,” Holland said.
With seasonal slowdowns in local industry more acute this year, Holland said, many household budgets are being stretched to the breaking point due to the higher bills for heat and electricity that come with living in a cold-weather climate.
“We used to go three or four times a year and now we go every month,” Holland said, referring to the regional food bank where the pantry gets a large part of its supplies that don’t come from donations.
Financial donations help the pantry greatly, since it can buy items in bulk such as meat for pennies on the dollar and augment donated goods.
Based on what he has heard from others, the Rev. Thomas Zelker of St. Mary’s Church said, the Bulkley Avenue food pantry has been doing better than many in the area.
“Everybody’s just been pitching in to keep this going,” Zelker said.
He credits the community for its continued enthusiastic support of the pantry.
Recent donations from organizations such as the Boy Scouts, the Granville Lions Club, the U.S. Postal Service and others have kept the shelves well-stocked, augmenting the weekly collections that area churches take in.
Holland said the church collections often bring in the additional necessity items that don’t always come from a food pantry such as tooth brushes or deodorant and other toiletries.
Some helpers just bring food to the pantry, at all hours of the day or night.
Zelker said those just dropping off food often come by without notice and leave items for the food pantry. He said he has to be careful after the weather turns cold to avoid having an unannounced dropped-off item freeze before it is brought inside.
The food pantry serves the same area as the Granville School District, Holland said, and many people in the area probably qualify for its services but do not realize it.
The pantry stopped providing holiday baskets many years ago, she said, and instead focuses on month-to-month aid for those in need.
“We do monthly baskets to augment a food budget,” she said.